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The latest COVID-19 vaccine updates

We understand that this is an unprecedented time and one that can leave you with many questions unanswered about coronavirus and whether your medical aid option will cover the cost of the vaccination. To alleviate some stress around this pandemic, we have created a list of commonly asked questions and answered them below.

COVID-19 Digital Vaccination Certificates are now available to download.

You will need your vaccination code from the SMS you received after your vaccination and the ID number that you used when you received your vaccine. If you no longer have your SMS or your vaccine code, you can call the COVID-19 Call Centre on 0800 029 999.

South Africa’s medical regulating body has approved all COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered in the country, after they met the scientific standards for safety and efficacy. These vaccines have been developed using an approach that uses messenger RNA technology. This technology has been studied for more than a decade and does not contain any live virus, nor does it interact with human cells or change your DNA in any way. Those with a compromised immune system, older people with severe frailty, people with a history of severe allergic reaction to vaccines, people living with HIV, and those who are breastfeeding should consult a doctor before taking a vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccination is strongly encouraged for non-pregnant women contemplating pregnancy. COVID-19 vaccines using the mRNA or viral vector technology should be offered to all pregnant women after 14 weeks gestation. Pregnant women with co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension will be prioritised for vaccination, should vaccine supplies be limited.

The Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech vaccines are mRNA vaccines that do not contain a live virus. Additionally, mRNA vaccines do not interact with a person’s DNA or cause genetic changes, as it does not enter the nucleus of the cell. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is a viral vector vaccine using a modified version of a vector. Thus far, no adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported when the same viral vector was used in other vaccines and administered to pregnant women in all trimesters of pregnancy.

For maximum efficacy, go for your second dose 42 days after you’ve received your first dose, or as soon as possible if it’s been more than 42 days since you received the first dose.

While the vaccine rollout has been expanded to include individuals over 18, if you are a healthcare worker who has not yet been vaccinated, you can ensure you are prioritised by clicking this link to register:

You need to wait 30 days from the date of your positive result, then visit the vaccination centre to which you had been allocated, as a walk-in visitor.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been declared a Prescribed Minimum Benefit by the Council for Medical Schemes. As a member of a medical scheme, the Scheme will cover the cost of your COVID-19 vaccine in full. If you don’t belong to a medical aid, the cost of your vaccine will still be covered.

The vaccine takes several days to become effective after you’ve received it. The consensus at present is that you should wait until you’ve recovered, or your quarantine period is over, and then get vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines can cause mild side effects, such as pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, fatigue, headache, chills and muscle or joint pain. These side effects are normal signs that your immune system is building protection against the virus. Most side effects occur within the first three days of vaccination and usually only last a day or two.

These side effects can mimic symptoms of COVID-19. Self-isolate and consult your doctor if you experience symptoms more than three days after being vaccinated lasting more than two days.

Some people who received the vaccine have had flu-like symptoms, including body aches, and fever. If you experience these side effects, it's a normal response and a sign that your body is building protection against the virus. In clinical trials, some participants experienced more side effects after the second dose.

The vaccine cannot give you the virus. The current vaccines on the market (Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson) do not contain the entire virus, so it’s impossible for these vaccines to give you COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the entire virus, so it’s impossible for the vaccine to give those who live with you COVID-19.

The new COVID-19 vaccines teach your immune system to recognise and fight the virus. This protects you from getting sick with COVID-19. But a vaccine needs time to provide protection after it’s received. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots, such as the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.

Remember, you could be infected with the COVID-19 virus just before or just after vaccination and get sick. So, it’s very important to continue the usual risk mitigation activities – wearing a mask, physical distancing, hand hygiene, etc.

While you may still be able to get and spread COVID-19 after being vaccinated, the severity of illness and risk of death is highly reduced. It is currently expected that only once more than 85% of the country’s population is vaccinated, will it be safe to stop measures like social distancing and the wearing of masks.

No. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change your DNA in any way. The term mRNA means messenger RNA vaccines. These vaccines teach your cells how to make a specific protein that triggers your immune system to fight back against the COVID-19 virus and protect against future COVID-19 infections. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of your cells where your DNA is located.

The short answer: yes. Researchers say there are still too many unknowns about how long immunity lasts from natural infection. Though immunity from COVID-19 vaccines is yet to be determined, research shows that vaccine immunity tends to be stronger than natural immunity. Health experts advise that those who have been recently diagnosed or exposed to the virus should delay vaccination or wait about 90 days from the time of diagnosis to get vaccinated.

Even if you get vaccinated and are protected from the worst effects of the disease, you may still get COVID-19, but with milder symptoms. You could also still be an asymptomatic carrier and still transmit the virus to others without knowing it. It is currently expected that only once more than 85% of the country’s population is vaccinated, will it be safe to stop measures like social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Natural immunity varies from person to person. Since the COVID-19 virus is so new, experts aren’t certain how long it lasts. But current data suggests that reinfection with the virus within 90 days after the first infection is uncommon. Therefore, people with a recent infection may wait until after the 90-day period to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The only way to obtain an approved COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa is by registering on the EVDS system when it is your turn in Government’s vaccine rollout plan. If you receive any calls or messages not stipulating that you need to register on EVDS and receive a vaccine code before going to get your vaccine, it is unlikely to be from a legitimate source.

The South African Department of Health released the findings of a local study in June 2021 that indicates there is currently no evidence of benefits with respect to mortality, clinical improvement or viral clearance. The NEMLC COVID-19 sub-committee recommended against the routine use of Ivermectin in the management of COVID-19. Click here for more.

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